April 24, 2024 | Flash Brief

Israel Develops Plan for Rafah Evacuation

April 24, 2024 | Flash Brief

Israel Develops Plan for Rafah Evacuation

Latest Developments

The Israeli military is preparing to evacuate Gazan civilians from Rafah, Hamas’s last stronghold, as part of Israel’s planned offensive, The Wall Street Journal reported on April 22. According to Egyptian officials briefed on Israel’s plans, Israel will relocate civilians to Khan Younis and other areas of Gaza, which will be equipped with tents, food, and medical facilities. Israel plans to cooperate with Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and other Arab countries on the operation.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced they would buy 40,000 tents to prepare for the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Gazans. The Associated Press published satellite images on April 23 appearing to show construction of tent compounds near Khan Younis, but the Israeli military denied involvement. After evacuating civilians, IDF forces plan to move into Rafah to target hotspots where they believe Hamas is holding Israeli hostages and where four intact Hamas battalions remain.

An Israeli security official said that Israel needs “a very tight operational plan” because of the complexity of the challenge and concurrent humanitarian efforts near Rafah.

Expert Analysis

“A Rafah offensive has been a nightmare for Egypt since October 7. It risks shedding light on its corrupt security officials and outdated border equipment and increases the likelihood that Egypt will have to host some Gazan refugees. Since Hamas is not willing to end the war, Cairo’s current policy is to minimize, by all possible means, the expected number of refugees that it hosts and to utilize this potential scenario to gain financially by taking as much aid as it can from the international community and generous Arab partners.” — Haisam Hassanein, FDD Adjunct Fellow

“The ongoing effort to eliminate Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups in Rafah is crucial, but it is important to recognize that this alone will not resolve the war. Hamas and its affiliates have demonstrated their ability to regroup in the central and northern parts of the Gaza Strip. That being said, post-Rafah, the war is likely going to continue as the IDF follows through in eliminating the remaining elements of terrorist groups in Gaza.” — Joe Truzman, Senior Research Analyst at FDD’s Long War Journal

U.S. and Israel Disagree Over Rafah Operation

Israel intends to launch its offensive despite opposition from the United States, which has expressed concern about the potential for civilian casualties. On April 21, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted at an imminent offensive by saying, “In the coming days, we will increase the military and diplomatic pressure on Hamas because it’s the only way to release our hostages and achieve our victory.” Israel has been conducting “near daily” airstrikes on Rafah — a likely prelude to its full-scale offensive — and has reportedly placed troops on alert.

State Department Spokesman Matt Miller recently said the United States does not “want to see Palestinians evacuated from Rafah unless it is to return to their homes.” On April 18, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met virtually with Israeli Minister for Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer and National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi to discuss Israel’s potential operation in Rafah. The meeting reportedly ended with an impasse. That same day, the United States also denied reporting that it approved Israel’s potential Rafah operation on the condition that Israel forgo a counterstrike against Iran in response to Tehran’s launch of approximately 350 missiles and drones on the night of April 13.

‘Victory Requires Entering Rafah,’ Netanyahu Says,” FDD Flash Brief

Between Iran And Rafah, IDF Considers Next Steps,” by Seth J. Frantzman

Israel to Send Delegation to Washington to Discuss Rafah Operation,” FDD Flash Brief


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